Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Prayer requests

Today is our usual day for prayer requests, and I don't want to take away from that opportunity to share.
I'd like to continue our study, though, and then leave room for requests....
Our passage yesterday started like this:
Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear.  (I Peter 1:17)
Does Peter have in mind a cringing, subservient fear? Does he mean the irrational fear that causes paranoia? I don't believe so....Peter was raised and trained in the Hebrew way, and the rabbis would have tasked him with memorizing much of the Torah, the Proverbs, and the prophets. I think if we look at verses there, we may understand more fully what Peter means, because the fear of the Lord is a major theme!
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,    but fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:7)
To fear the Lord is to hate evil; (Proverbs 8:13a)
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,    and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. (Proverbs 9:10)
Whoever fears the Lord has a secure fortress,    and for their children it will be a refuge. The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, turning a person from the snares of death. (Proverbs 14:26-27)
Humility is the fear of the Lord;    its wages are riches and honor and life. (Proverbs 22:4)
Rather than a cringing fear, we see a quality that is a key to long life, wisdom, and happiness. It's apparent that the writer of Proverbs saw it as a positive, not as a negative.
Two other verses can help us understand:
Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear me and keep all my commands always, so that it might go well with them and their children forever! (Deuteronomy 5:29)

So it's an attitude of our heart -- something that we don't approach lightly or flippantly.
And....it's a choice, too:
...since they hated knowledge    and did not choose to fear the Lord. (Proverbs 1:29)

It's a choice, and it's an attitude of the heart. This is getting more interesting by the minute, don't ya think?
Have you some verses that you found in your study that you can add?

Do you have a prayer request that we can join you in bearing up to the Lord? Allow us the privilege of praying with you.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Fearing God (I Peter 1:17-21)

We are diving back into our study of I Peter!
To refresh our memories, Peter is writing this letter to believers who are scattered across what we call today the country of Turkey. They were separated from each other and they were facing persecution, but Peter began his letter by encouraging them to stand fast in spite of their trials. He reminded them that God had caused them to be born again, and had given them an inheritance in heaven. Their fiery trials can't change any of that -- nor can the trials change the fact that in the future, they will see the Savior face-to-face! He told them that the prophets searched for this salvation, and the angels don't fully understand it, but nothing that happens to us here on earth can cause God to break His promises to us.
Whew! Anyone besides me saying "Amen!"? There's been a lot packed into this first chapter so far!

Because of that great salvation, Peter now writes three commands to the scattered believers:

Be holy
Fear God
Love one another

Last week we studied the "Be holy" portion.
This week we're going to talk about the "Fear God" part.....
Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially,live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear. 18 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 20 He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. 21 Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God. (I Peter 1:17-21)

I bet that if one of us were writing this letter, we would put things in a different order! Let me explain....I think we might list "love one another" first. We all understand that one, and we like it. It's warm and fuzzy and doesn't take a lot of discussion. We would probably put "be holy" in second place. We know it's important, and we understand it. We might put "fearing God" in the last slot. Why? We're not sure what it means, and we kinda don't like the sound of it. God is our Savior, our Friend, our comfort and our refuge. He loves us. Fearing God kinda sounds negative, no? Like He is angry, and He might do as the cartoons show, and "zap" us? (Grin)

To tell you the truth, I can't remember the last time I heard someone preach or teach on the fear of God. I feel a bit like a salmon swimming upstream, ya know? Going against the tide of modern church culture. It's not a popular topic -- we'd much rather talk about the love of God any day!

Ahh, but wait! If we only pay attention to the Scriptures that we like, will we ever grow? If we only read the warm and comfortable verses and promises, will we ever mature in faith? I believe that if we read only the comfortable passages, we will stay just as we are. If we want to grow as believers, we need to read the ones that tug us away from the comfort zone, and challenge us to grow. I want to grow! I want to examine this concept of fearing God, don't you?

We're going to dig deep on this one, and tomorrow's study will include a lot of different verses to consider....maybe we should dig on our own before we meet again. Let's look at our concordance or commentary and read some of the verses that contain the words "fear God."

Friday, October 13, 2017

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Guided thoughts no. 25, conclusion

We said yesterday that we didn't want to be Christians who exemplified the phrase, "all flash and no substance." We want to have testimonies for God, not be looked at as hypocrites -- people who affirm their belief, but then their lives don't show it!

Kind of like the old commercial....we don't want to be the fluffy bun. We want to be the beef! The real thing!

So, how can we show the world we are real?
First, folks should be able to see in us that our hearts have changed:
I will give them singleness of heart and action, so that they will always fear me and that all will then go well for them and for their children after them. (Jeremiah 32:39)
I seek you with all my heart;    do not let me stray from your commands.  I have hidden your word in my heart    that I might not sin against you.  Praise be to you, Lord(Psalm 119:10-12a) 
True believers have true hearts that love God, that consider Him the treasure of this life and the next! We will keep His commandments not because we want to ease our consciences, but because we want to serve and know Him, and bring glory to the name of Jesus.

Next, as true believers, we will abandon all hope of righteousness in ourselves. Our hearts are broken as we consider our sin and our holy God. And then our hearts rejoice as we accept Christ's sacrifice and resurrection for those sins.
If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. 11 As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” 12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:9-13)
With promises like these, how can we help but be inspired to be genuine! With happy hearts, we will reach out to others, to tell them the good news!
Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” (John 4:39)
Sharing Him with others is a vital part of our Christian life. Our testimony might not always be accepted, but with the Holy Spirit's help, we can receive power to live a victorious life: we can be consistent, be a good listener, and avoid arrogance or "preachiness." We can pray each day for people that He lays on our heart, and always ask Him for wisdom.
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. (James 1:5)
If we can follow these guidelines, with the help of His Spirit, then we'll not be "all flash and no substance." We'll be the real thing!!

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Guided thoughts no. 25

Ahhhh, autumn!
Chilly mornings that give way to sunshine-filled, warmer afternoons.....the heady scent of scuppernong grapes ripening in the sunshine.....the spectacular shades of color in the leaves on the trees.....

Gorgeous reds, flashy oranges, brilliant yellows.....
What a stunning display of God's handiwork!

Ever heard the expression, "all flash and no substance'? Well, it doesn't apply to the way that God paints the world with autumn colors..... but does it apply to us?

Are we colorful with our testimony? Can we quote "chapter and verse" as my grandma used to say? Sing the hymns from memory? Have people thinking well of us, that we must be awfully spiritual?

But where's the substance? As the old fast-food commercial used to say, "Where's the beef?"

When we are asked to volunteer for a task, do we cheerfully do so? When we face an obstacle, do we buckle down and approach it in God's strength?

Or are we shallow? There's no real walk behind the talk?

Just gettin' real here, folks. If we are not genuine, what kind of a testimony do we really have?

In other words, are we hypocrites?

Yes, I said it. And we need to explore this. Truly need to.
Are we listening?

(I am indebted to a very old book, The Christian's Great Interest, by William Guthrie of Scotland, in the 1600's. I heartily encourage y'all to read it if you can secure a copy!)

If we are hypocrites, we may have great knowledge of God's truth, and our emotions about Jesus may be very high....
 The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. (Matthew 13:20)
We can even look good on the outside, like the Pharisee who prayed:
The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ (Luke 18:11-12)
We can't place all our stock in the fact that we were convicted of sin, for even Judas experienced that:
When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. (Matthew 27:3)
And how about Felix....he was troubled by his sins, too:
As Paul talked about righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and said, “That’s enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you.”  (Acts 24:25)
In fact, a hypocrite can put on all kinds of showy, good behavior, but God knows the heart:
But to the wicked person, God says:“What right have you to recite my laws    or take my covenant on your lips? (Psalm 50:16)
An unbeliever (or a hypocrite, either one) can persevere and give all their possessions to God, even take on physical hardship, but Paul says:
If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. (I Corinthians 13:3)
In other words, if our walk doesn't match our talk, we're not the real thing. We're not genuine. People will look us over and decide that Christianity doesn't mean much, because when we really need to be the real thing, we are lacking.

So, how can we avoid these pitfalls? How can we show that we are real? We are genuine? We truly desire to walk with our Lord?

Tune in tomorrow!

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

What are we listening to, today?

Yesterday we focused on how we need to recharge to be used by God.....oh, how we need Him!

Monday, October 9, 2017

Guided thoughts no. 24

Many of us carry "smart" mobile phones these days. I resisted for quite a while, but gave in when promised "Face" time with kids, if I purchased one to take the place of my older cell phone. We won't go into whether or not that time together materialized. (Grin)

These things run on batteries, no? Don't ya hate it when you glance down at it and the little symbol for "I've almost run out of juice, please charge me up!" is showing on the screen? Or when you get past that point and it just plain gives out? Oy.

Recently, someone in our family purchased an all electric vehicle. It should work out alright, since their daily commute to work is just twelve miles, round trip. But what if there is a need to go somewhere else? The grocery store? The doctor?

What if when they jump in and buckle up, the display reads "Low battery life"?

I wonder if that is how God feels sometimes when He looks at us? He has given us a task, and He looks down and we are moving in slow motion......if we are moving at all.

Do we pay attention to recharging our spiritual batteries? Many missed opportunities to serve the Lord come from not being fully charged and ready to work for Him!
How do we "charge our batteries"?  We know how to keep ourselves physically ready. Our tummies remind us that we need to eat. Our levels of fatigue tell us we need recuperative sleep.  Those are physical preparations.....what about the spiritual?
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ (Matthew 4:4)
Here is where Jesus was quoting from:
He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. (Deuteronomy 8:3)
Jesus is telling us that we need to pay attention to the spiritual regimen that will renew our souls, just as food and sleep renew our bodies. Like the electric car that needs to be plugged in to recharge, so we also need to be "plugged in" to recharge our spiritual batteries for each day.

The best possible life for a believer starts and continues with Jesus' instructions for a daily connection and study in God's Word. Unless we recharge, and renew our minds and feed our souls, there will be some point during the day when we stop working correctly. It will be that time that the Lord sees an "out of power" or "unusable" signal from us -- and we will miss out on the benefits of working for Him in His strength.

Do you long to have the kind of power that Isaiah mentioned?
He gives strength to the weary    and increases the power of the weak.  Even youths grow tired and weary,    and young men stumble and fall;  but those who hope in the Lord    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;    they will run and not grow weary,    they will walk and not be faint. (Isaiah 40:29-31)
Are you tired? Are you weary? It's time for us to soar with eagles! Being tired isn't always a physical thing....sometimes weariness is in our minds and in our attitudes.....we need recharging! We may be carrying a load that we don't need to bear: worry, fear, anxiety, apprehension. If we try to face life by being strong on our own, we will come to a point where we can go no further. We will want to give up.  In our lives, we know there will be difficulties, temptations, and stress.

Here are two things we need to take care of, in order to recharge and be ready:
First, have we lost our close fellowship with God? Have we lost our enthusiasm? The Bible translators called it "zeal." When we lose our desire for God, other things take His place in our hearts. But if we draw close to the Lord, the things of this world lose their power and strength over us.
Second, have we experienced a past that is filled with regrets? Are we holding onto that pain? If we are focused on the past, it's just impossible to receive that fresh, new strength from Him. Our future is going to be better than our past! We have everything to look forward to -- and reading in His Word and finding and remembering His promises.....that's the way to move on, and to have spiritual power.

Are our spiritual batteries charged up for today?